Friday, May 1, 2015

Crash (Best Picture 2005)

Crash is one of those films that you either love or hate. You either enjoy the way it weaves people's lives together into a rich tapestry, or you see a slew of coincidences and a conclusion that is obvious. But you know what? You have to actually see it in order to have an opinion. I definitely recommend this film.

A quick glance at the DVD cover above will tell you that there are atleast twelve "stars" in this film. However, the real "star" of this film is the city of Los Angeles. The story is about the city, and how people living in it do not connect, even when they crash into each other.

Although there are a dozen featured players in this film, the emotional spine of the film comes from how seven of them interact. Don Cheadle (one of the producers) is a police man who is trying hard not to be dirty while taking care of a semi-demented mother and a delinquent younger brother. Matt Dillon and Ryan Phillippe start out as beat cops, then have a falling out and follow separate paths. Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton play a husband and wife who are pulled over by these cops, then must deal with the repercussions of this encounter. And Ludacris (aka Chris Bridges) and Larenz Tate play thugs who make their money by car-jacking.
I am not going to explain all the ways that these characters inter-act with each other (and the other stars not mentioned) over the course of the two days the film covers. Suffice it to say that they meet up, like ships that pass in the night. Will you believe that a police officer that pulls you over at night may encounter you again the next day when you are getting car-jacked? LA is a big city, but it is also a small town. The same police are assigned to your neighborhood, aren't they? So I did not find these encounters hard to believe; besides, we are watching *these* characters BECAUSE they are interacting with each other. That is the whole point.

Sadly, all of these characters exhibit some prejudice towards each other and each others' races throughout the film. So we have Sandra Bollock thinking that all Latinos are gangsters, while also getting Ludacris complaining that white people walk away from him because he is a black man.

Matt Dillon has the break-out role in the film as a flawed cop who lets his frustration at how his sick father is suffering bubble over into racist tirades directed at his medical insurance agent (a black woman) and by abusing Howard and Newton. Yet the next day, he encounters Newton again when she is a victim of a car accident, and he risks his life to save hers. And they both know it, which upsets both of them.

Terrence Howard plays the television director who is humiliated when he is pulled over by the police and has no choice but to acquiesce to their orders. With the actual killings of black men by police in the US still fresh in the news, it was incredibly painful to watch this encounter. It happens again the next day, this time with Ryan Phillippe, who is trying to be less racist than Matt Dillon was but who still ends up "crashing into" Howard. And his relationship with his wife could be destroyed. At the very end we see them on the telephone with each other saying, "I love you." There is hope there, but there is also distance.

Ludacris and Larenz Tate appear at first to be in the film for some comedic effect, as they are best friends teasing each other for the majority of the movie. Then at the end they have a run-in with Howard and Phillippe, and it becomes more serious. Both choose to go down paths that change them forever. Here, too, there is some hope amid the pain.

And pain mingled with fear seems to be the connecting theme of the film. An Iranian immigrant has his convenience store vandalized, so he in his anger wants revenge on the lock-smith he blames for not fixing the door. The lock-smith, of course, tried to explain to the immigrant the actual problem, but they could not make each other understand. Don Cheadle tries to solve a cop-on-cop shooting, only to find himself drawn into a political situation that also involves his delinquent brother. Although it pains him to do it, he has to walk away from that case. And when Sandra Bollock slips and falls down her stairs, she is hurt to find that the only person willing to help her is her Latino maid.  

When people crash into each other, everybody gets hurt.

If you like ensemble casts and you enjoy paying attention to all the ins and outs of interlocking stories, you will enjoy this film. If you enjoy your stories a bit more clear-cut and straight-forward, this story might confuse you. However, the film is expertly made, with wonderful lighting during the night scenes and fantastic location filming. The acting is universally excellent. And the idea of the film is good. Sometimes good things happen to bad people, and sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes you just crash into each other no matter what your intentions are.

*Academy Award Best Picture of 2005*
Produced by Don Cheadle, Paul Haggis, Mark R. Harris,
Bobby Moresco, Cathy Schulman, and Bob Yari
Directed by Paul Haggis
Screenplay by Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco;
story by Paul Haggis

This trailer gives you a good idea of how complicated this film is.
If this looks interesting, give it a try. 

Also Nominated:
(in alphabetical order)
Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, and Good Luck
This was the year that many people wanted Brokeback Mountain to win Best Picture, and were angry when Crash won instead. However, it won Best Director for Ang Lee. As a smaller scale, less "epic" film, I am not surprised that it lost out to a film that featured so many different actors and locations around Los Angeles. Was it a better film? You be the judge. Capote was the biographical film about writer Truman Capote and how he wrote his biographical murder mystery In Cold Blood. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who looks nothing like the real Truman Capote, won Best Actor for portraying him. (Coincidentally, Reese Witherspoon won Best Actress for portraying real-life June Carter Cash in I Walk The Line.) Good Night, and Good Luck was the story of CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow fighting back against Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his "red scare" of the Fifties. And Munich is Steven Spielberg's fictionalized account of the terrorism attack at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and its aftermath. It is the only nominee I did not see this year.

No comments:

Post a Comment